Sara Hamilton & David Reviews & Interviews

by Stephen Fratallone for Jazz Connection Magazine
Sara Hamilton and David /Let the Music Move You
IFM Records / 2006

Some fantastic jazz has been and continues to be created by our Canadian neighbors to the north, thanks to songstress Sara Hamilton and her pianist/partner, David McCallen. The duo have produced tasty, swinging jazz for the past three decades in Toronto and Calgary, and have now shared their talents internationally with the recent release of Let The Music Move You (IFM Records).

The thirteen-track retrospective features a tantalizing mixed bag of classics and original compositions designed to fill any jazzers heart with "wonder and joy." The first ten selections on the CD come from a live recording previously released from the early 1980s that showcases the talented Tonight's Band (Dave Young, bass; Brian Leonard, drums; Gene Amaro, tenor sax; Guido Basso, trumpet/flugelhorn; and Rob McConnell, valve trombone) backing up the star couple.

Hamilton's husky voice and impeccable phrasing and timing shine through on such gems as a swinging version of Take The "A" Train (with some very proactive statements by Amaro); Hoagy Carmichael's sultry Baltimore Oriole (spotlighting Young's bass prowess with some pretty comments by Hamilton on flute); a bouncy rendition of Fine And Mellow (with nice punctuation by McConnell); and an in-flight interpretation of Over The Rainbow (with Basso featured on flugelhorn).

Hamilton's compositional talents are also notably marked on the album with her sassy When Your Tears Hit The Ground, and the equally feisty Don't Wanna Play No More.

Hamilton's tour de force on this album is the pensive and heartwarming Shiver Me Timbers, a seafaring love song by Tom Watts. She captures the essence of the piece.

The final three cuts are studio recordings with West Coast jazz icon and funny man Jack Sheldon playing trumpet on the medley Crazy (not the Patsy Cline hit), a tongue-in-cheek piece about always being in debt and people hassling debtors to pay outstanding bills, and a Mose Allison piece, Don't Worry 'Bout A Thing.

McCallen and Hamilton team up compositionally with Life, and they then get funky on the album's title track, a McCallen original, who, by the way, provides some great playing and vocal support throughout the album.

If you are looking for a CD of fantastic music to "move you," this one's it!

Let The Music Move You contains wonderful across-the-board artistry, fine material selection, and stimulating interpretations.

Track selections: Take The "A" Train, Baltimore Oriole, Fine And Mellow, Guess Who I Saw Today, Over The Rainbow, Night And Day, Fever, When Your Tears Hit The Ground, Don't Wanna Play No More, Shiver Me Timbers, Crazy/Don't Worry 'Bout A Thing, Life, Let The Music Move You. (Total time: 70: 08)

- Stephen Fratallone/Jazz Connection Magazine

Rating: *****

by Cindy McLeod for Jazz Elements
Sara Hamilton and David / Let the Music Move You
IFM Records / 2006

Sara Hamilton and David’s new CD Let the Music Move You, is proof positive the adage ‘quality stands the test of time’ rings true. The talented duo are jazz vocalists/musicians, and have released a stunning jazz retrospective and glimpse into their personal musical journey. In the process, the two have also created a a rare treasure of Canadian jazz music history, putting it together in one delightful package that will capture the ears of all music lovers.

The CD features thirteen tunes in the mainstream tradition with a fine mix of classic and original composition. Such gems as Carmichel’s “Baltimore Oriole” and Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” fall seamlessly together with Sara and David’s originals such as Sara’s “Don’t Wanna Play No More, and David’s “Life”, the artists and their compositional works not only sitting in the genre but downright describing it.

Hamilton and David split lead vocal duties (although Sara takes the lion’s share) and also deliver delightful harmony and two-voice performances. The first ten tracks are taken from a series of Toronto studio dates during the early 80’s, and were produced by the legendary Phil Sheridan, known as an innovator in the recording industry. With pianist David leading the rhythm section of bassist Dave Young and drummer Brian Leonard, the artists are joined by the creme of Toronto’s jazz horn elite with soloists Guido Basso (flugel), Rob McConnell (trombone), and Gene Amaro (saxophone) making appearances. Sara provides the finishing touches with her flute performance on two of the cuts. The balance of the tracks include a New Year’s Day session with trumpeter Jack Sheldon, bassist Dave Young and drummer Jerry Fuller; a cut featuring the acclaimed Boss Brass performing Rob McConnell’s arrangement of Sara and David’s co-composition “Life”, and the final and title cut “Let the Music Move You,” written by David and taking a different direction musically from the rest of the album with it’s funky groove anchored by guitarist Earl Marek and drummer Stan Perry as they accompany the vocalists as they chant an hypnotic “Let the Music Move You.”

Sara Hamilton’s voice is a divinely husky, rich contralto that effuses warmth and intimacy. A masterful storyteller, her laid-back delivery is smooth and flawless, leaving tons of breathing room to create the perfect balance of tension and release that melds with her combined elements of delicacy and strength. She is an accomplished soloist, her lines lyrical and graceful, adding an elegant charm to the overall sound. David’s piano is the cornerstone of the sound, inspiring the hard swinging feel that is the mark of this recording, and the backbone for the guest musicians to build their dynamic presence upon. He has a knack for nailing the pocket, his solos punctuating the space and providing the perfect textural compliment to the vocals. David sings with similar sensibilities as his playing, clean and melodic, his raspy voice bringing the vocal line to life as skillfully roams over lead and harmony lines, his solos forming around the harmonic shapes of his piano. The duo’s signature is found in their intricate vocal dance as they perform their harmony and unison work, the timbres of their individual voices an ideal pairing.

The various musical configurations that came together to make up this recording form the who’s-who of Canada’s jazz scene, the leaders of today who played an important role of the development of the genre. Included with the CD are extensive liner notes and rare photos contributed by Sara Hamilton and David that serve both anecdotal and archival purposes, preserving and documenting the development of Canadian jazz.

This is a hard swinging, feel-good recording that deserves wide airplay and a nod of recognition for it’s top-drawer performances. Making as strong a statement as the day the tracks were born, Sara Hamilton and David’s Let the Music Move You is a true classic. Recommended.

Reviewed by:
Cindy McLeod

Interview with Sara Hamilton
by Kenna Burima for FFWD Weekly

Jazz: a love story
Duo makes it work on and off the stage

Jazz vocalist Sara Hamilton doesn’t mince words when it comes to talking about the business of music. Her experience and talent displays itself in every aspect; be it her professionalism onstage or the fact that she’s been doing it for so long. With husband and piano player David, both have come to a point where the lines between regular everyday life and the time they share on stage are blurred. Thirty-five years together can do that.

"He’s my best friend," says Hamilton. "We’ve been working at it for a long time and I noticed something – every time we argued we had a gig to go to, but the key was to never ever fight in public and never get drunk in public. If we were yelling our heads off in the car on the way to a gig, the moment we reached the parking lot, we’d stop. We never took it past that. Once you take all that stuff out of the equation, it becomes a lot easier."

From the release of her first album in 1969 as a folk singer and touring with the Hollies to playing and recording with some of the biggest names in Canadian jazz (including Ed Bickert, Stan Perry, Ian McDougall, Moe Koffman, and Guido Basso), Hamilton has kept it real and most importantly – fun. And jazz was just part of that equation.

"Sure, it’s kind of a long story of how I got here, but I don’t think you just start out saying ‘I want to be a jazz musician.’ You just start out doing music."

With that kind of wisdom, it’s not a surprise that Hamilton has changed her sound and direction over the years. It’s just all part of the process.

"You know, the voice is just one of the instruments that people use," says Hamilton. "It happens a lot that vocalists sometimes get stuck and don’t work at it and build. The singers that I draw my influences from range from Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt, to Carmen McRae and KD Lang. I think people forget that she’s a great jazz singer. People like Diana Krall, though great musicians, aren’t necessarily trying new things. As a musician, you always have to be growing." Having spent the majority of their years as professional musicians in Toronto, the move to Calgary was a natural progression.

"Toronto’s good if you were good," admits Hamilton. "We put in a lot of work, but back in those days, there were gigs five nights a week. People didn’t have VCRs so everyone went out. But we reached a point, when we’d toured across the country, we’d put in all this time and we were ready for a change. We were at that point where we wanted to relax. So 15 years ago we moved to Calgary."

So much for retiring. Their new album Let the Music Move You will be available at the festival, making its way back from Pennsylvania where it’s being manufactured.

"It’s kind of a compilation of music David and I have done over the years. There’s songs that we recorded from 1979 all the way to the present. The idea is that this music moved us, now let it move everyone else." - Thursday, August 31, 2006
Copyright ©2006 FFWD. All rights reserved.

by John Reid for FFWD Weekly Magazine
Sara Hamilton and David / All In Good Time
IFM Records / 2000

· After several vinyl recordings, Calgary jazz duo releases first CD. You've heard the old gag:

Q: "How many in the band?"
A: "Four musicians and a singer."

Well, that is not the case here. These singers are musicians, and in this case, the band consists of two of them, transplanted Torontonians Sara Hamilton and David. Sara is a deep-voiced jazz contralto who doubles on an Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull-style percussive flute. David plays two-fisted piano, most often walking bass lines in the left hand, either comping or soloing with the right, and singing in support of Sara.

The disc starts with a John Coltrane modal blues ("Mr. P.C.") dedicated to late ’50s Miles Davis bassist Paul Chambers with lyrics penned by Jon Hendricks. The melody is performed monophonically, vocally and on piano, before piano and flute solos. It is a compelling texture.

Three quarter jazz waltz rhythm is addressed with Sara's version of "Better Than Anything", the lyrics of which cover (among other things) a lot of interesting situations in jazz. It is a special treat to hear Sara sing the touching words to Thelonious Monk’s "’Round Midnight", a piece that is most often performed instrumentally. David steps into the limelight singing lead on "I’m Beginning to See the Light" (co-written by Duke Ellington) in a swinging arrangement that leads to offset scatting between himself and Sara. On another great old standard (that I recall fondly from my parents' "My Fair Lady" soundtrack), David starts off the proceedings of "On the Street Where You Live" before alternating vocals with Sara and the tune evolves into an uptempo potboiler with the two of them singing together, switching off between unison and harmony.

The duo even contributes four of its own substantial originals sung by Sara, an unusual situation for most jazz singers. "All in Good Time", a personal, gospel three quarter time number is especially notable. This is a fine disc with full, thoughtful arrangements from Calgary’s top jazz vocal duo.


FFWD Weekly - November 23, 2000 Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
CD Review by John Reid